Her hair was starting to come down from the knot and she tugged on it, looking lonely and sad as a lighthouse. Sad as a nun.

Mackie Doyle is a sad sack of an emo bass-playing teenage boy who’s slowly dying of allergies to blood, iron, and consecrated ground. He knows perfectly well that he’s a changeling, and so does his family. They just don’t talk about it. It slowly becomes clear that many people in the town of Gentry know that faeries periodically steal their children, but they’ve accepted this in return for the purported benefits the faeries bring.

When the baby sister of one of Mackie’s classmates is stolen away, he finally decides to confront his heritage, and starts interacting with the two faerie courts. (Both courts consist largely of zombies and other creepy beings, but one is more evil than the other.) In a twist which will surprise no one who has ever read any old-school urban fantasy, they are willing to extend his life so long as he agrees to play in a local nightclub.

Apart from the band stuff, which was great in War for the Oaks but getting old by now, I liked the premise. But Mackie’s dishrag passivity wore on me, and everything from relationships to characters to plot points tended to not make a whole lot of sense. For instance…

It’s not clear what benefits Gentry derives from its devil’s bargain with the faeries. It’s suggested that the recession didn’t hit it (but then I’d expect it to seem more prosperous) and later stated that there were no real benefits (then why did everyone accept having their babies stolen?)

Mackie is allergic to blood, but when his locker is smeared with it in a prank, he deliberately wipes it off with his sleeve and goes home wearing the bloody hoodie. Then he washes it with bleach to remove the deadly blood. If blood is that toxic, he shouldn’t have cleaned it up with his sleeve and then worn the hoodie home. If it isn’t toxic once it’s no longer fresh, then he shouldn’t be that upset over it getting on his clothes. (I’m guessing he has special faerie blood, or else he’d have long since died of autoimmunity.)

Mackie is supposedly unpopular and widely considered to be a freak. But he has a number of close friends who are willing to dig up bodies for him without ever discussing the fact that he’s a changeling, and has at least two girls throwing themselves at him, one of whom is quite popular.

The relationship between Mackie and Tate, the girl whose sister was taken, makes no sense. I could not figure out whether or not she knew he was a changeling, as her behavior toward him sometimes only makes sense if she does, and sometimes only makes sense if she doesn’t. They alternated between being friendly, being hostile, and making out in what was probably supposed to be a tempestuous relationship, but had so little grounding that it might as well have been based on off-page dice rolls.

Though faeries have been menacing the town for generations, they are easily defeated by iron weapons like knives and crowbars… and this is something apparently no one ever tried till Mackie and pals finally get off their duffs.

The best part of this book is the marvelously creepy cover. In my opinion. However, it’s a huge bestseller, so many people liked it much more than I did. I’m guessing that the people who enjoyed it were way more into the horror aspects than I was, had read fewer changeling stories than I have and so found it more fresh and new, and/or were less bored by Mackie than I was.

The Replacement
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